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LAS VEGAS — It’s over for Manny Pacquiao.
Oh, there are plenty of guys he can still beat if he chooses to fight again.
But what made Pacquiao one of the greats, one of the most breathtaking fighters of this or any generation, was his eagerness to accept every challenge, to move up seemingly indiscriminately in weight to face the biggest, baddest guys who put their name on a contract to face him.
Pacquiao was never accused of ducking an elite fighter or passing on a challenge.
He was supposed to fight the great Errol Spence Jr. on this night, and it’s a good thing for him that Spence was found to have a detached retina and had to pull out of the fight. It would not have been pretty had it been Spence, and not Yordenis Ugas, standing across from the Filipino legend before a crowd of 17,438 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
As it was, Ugas was too much for the Filipino senator and would-be president. The Cuban who now lives in Las Vegas retained the welterweight title that the WBA swiped from Pacquiao and gave to him in January by winning a unanimous decision. Judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld had it 116-112 for Ugas, while Patricia Morse-Jarman had Ugas 115-113. Yahoo Sports also had it 115-113 for Ugas.
This fight would have been difficult for Pacquiao five or even 10 years ago, given Ugas’ size, physicality and style of boxing. He pumped his jab early and kept Pacquiao from getting inside and doing a lot of damage. In the second half of the fight, he began dropping his right hand more and landed several good ones that shook Pacquiao.
As typified his career, Pacquiao never stopped trying and never stopped moving forward. But his legs had abandoned him and as a fighter whose legs were his difference-maker, that was a crucial loss.
Had it been the unbeaten Spence, the WBC-IBF champion, they might have been scraping Pacquiao off the canvas. The same is true if it were Terence Crawford, the WBO champion that Pacquiao called out earlier in the week.
His heart is massive, both inside and outside of the ring. He’s literally given millions that he won in the ring away to the needy and less fortunate, as well as some of his so-called friends who simply robbed him blind.
And his heart is what made him such a heroic fighter, who began his career as a 16-year-old so light he had to weigh in with rocks in his pockets to make the minimum weight.
He won far more than he lost — he’s now 62-8-2 with 39 knockouts now — and always poured his guts out in an effort to put on a good show. He held a world championship in each of four decades. He is the only man to ever win titles in eight weight divisions. And he was lineal champion in a remarkable five weight classes.
"I've done a lot for boxing and boxing has done a lot for me," Pacquiao said at the post-fight news conference. "I look forward to spending time with my family and thinking about my future in boxing."
There is no thinking to do. Pacquiao’s not the type of guy to take a gimme and face an easy opponent he knows he could beat. Just to give him a win in his last fight? Nah.
What you saw Saturday is what some of these hard heads who call themselves boxing promoters don’t get: Guys 42 and older don’t belong in the ring. This is a young person's sport and unlike in golf, where a bad day on the senior tour leads to an unseemly 85, a bad night in boxing leads to a subdural hematoma, detached retina and worse.
Pacquiao was in magnificent condition, as he’s been in just about every fight of his career. There are tens of millions of 40-plus-year-old men who would die to have the body he walked with to the ring on Saturday. There are millions of 20-somethings who probably feel that way.
But his legs are gone and they are critical for him in setting up his punches, moving away and his power. His calves are like grapefruits but he’s been so light on his feet. So he could move quickly and effortlessly to either slip away from a punch or to adjust his feet to throw — and connect — with a power shot.
There is no reason for him to take the abuse he needs to take.
"In the future you might not see Manny Pacquiao fight in the ring again," he said. "I don’t know."
He has a job that is more important than boxing now. The Philippines is rife with problems. As a politician, it’s his job to help fix those. And he can’t do it effectively as a part-timer.
He owes his people 100 percent of himself in his new line of work, whether that means remaining in the senate, seeking the presidency or just working as a civilian for human rights.
He had a fantastic run and is clearly one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
He has nothing to prove and no one to impress.
He’s loved boxing dearly and made so many others love it in return.
It’s time, though. There’s no reason for Manny Pacquiao to ever slip between those ropes with gloves on his hands again.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, is one of about a gazillion examples of what happens when a fighter hangs around too long.
Time waits for no man, not even a legend like Manny Pacquiao.
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